Notebook: McGraw-McGuff match a McSidebar for Notre Dame

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Under normal circumstances, Muffet McGraw squaring off against former assistant Kevin McGuff would be a big deal.

But when Notre Dame standout Brianna Turner went down with a torn ACL Sunday against Purdue, the storyline of the Notre Dame-Ohio State NCAA Tournament women’s basketball Sweet 16 game was changed dramatically.

The matchup between 30-year Irish coach McGraw, and the Buckeyes’ McGuff, who worked under McGraw from 1996-2002 (highlighted by the 2001 national championship), is just another sidebar.

No matter what happens, though, it should be McInteresting.

“(McGuff) was a terrific coach, I thought (that) from the first moment I hired him,” McGraw said Thursday. “I knew he was going to be really good with the guard play. He was a very good teacher of the game.

“He was somebody that could remain fairly calm in situations on the bench. He could not let the emotions get in the way of what we were trying to do.”

“I have great respect for Muffet,” said McGuff, 47. “She’s a close friend. I had a wonderful, wonderful experience working there, both personally and professionally. It was a real important time in my life and my career.

“It’s no fun to coach against somebody you’re close with, and I root for them every game except for when they play us.”

The graduate of St. Joseph’s College in Rensselaer came away with more than a lot of coaching experience from his time at Notre Dame. He married former Irish player Letitia Bowen from Buchanan. They have six children.

Hurtin' Buckeye

Notre Dame won’t be the only team on the floor Friday with an injured post player.

While the Irish will be without 6-foot-3 Turner, Ohio State has had to play its last eight games without 6-3 Stephanie Mavunga.

Indiana’s 2013 Miss Basketball from Brownsburg played two seasons at North Carolina. She transferred to Ohio State after the 2015 season. This season, she was averaging a double-double (11.8 points, 11.3 rebounds) until Feb. 9, when she went down in practice with what was reported as a foot injury.

The Buckeyes have won seven of those eight games Mavunga missed, losing only to Purdue (71-60) in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament.

Just this week Mavunga has started to run again in practice, but her availability for Friday night is a question.

“She’s been good so far this week,” McGuff said, “and further along than she was last week, but I would say that would be a game-time decision.”

Similar schedules

McGuff learned about scheduling tough from McGraw.

While Notre Dame’s slate was loaded with Connecticut, Tennessee, Washington and DePaul in the pre-Atlantic Coast Conference portion of its schedule, Ohio State’s slate, likewise, was loaded.

The Buckeyes have losses to elite teams like UConn, South Carolina and Baylor.

Similar opponents for Notre Dame and Ohio State are Miami, Fla. (ND beat the Hurricanes and the Buckeyes lost), Michigan State (the Irish won and Ohio State lost), Syracuse (both beat the Orange), and Purdue (Notre Dame won, and Ohio State split).

Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw looks on during a first-round game against Robert Morris in the women’s NCAA college basketball tournament, Friday, March 17, 2017, in South Bend, Ind. Notre Dame won 79-49. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)